Friday, December 19, 2008

More for the Interactive Usability Hall of Shame: BMW Features (Via Roland Smart, Adaptive Path); Solution: MX 2009

Roland Smart, of Adaptive Path, recently posted an article about his experience attending at the BMW performance driving school, where he had a chance to see how BMW uses the Microsoft Surface in the showroom. (See my previous post, BMW and Surface Computing: Video of Tabletop Interaction, on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog).

Later in his post, Smart discusses the problems he encountered with the BMW iDrive, a computer system that combines an LCD panel on the dashboard and a controller knob on the center console.

Smart cited information from James G. Cobb's article “Menus Behaving Badly“ (NY Times, '02), regarding his user-experience with a couple of features of the BMW 744i:

Unanticipated Headrest Action
"...A block away, I adjust the seat forward. The electric head restraint rises, inexplicably, to its highest position. I readjust the headrest and move the seat again. Again, the headrest zips up, as if programmed with the wisdom that tall people have short legs.

My beagle, whose job description is ''scan roadsides for squirrels,'' is in the back, moving from one side window to the other. Each time he shifts, sensors in the seat take note, and the right rear headrest whirrs up as the left one whirrs down. For the next two hours, the headrests dance in tandem, as if trying to provide comfort for restless spirits."

Dangerous Radio Station Control While Driving: The iDrive Controller Menu
"Pull the iDrive knob back to select the ''entertainment'' menu.
Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click ''memory.''
Scroll to the top of the next menu and highlight ''M FM.''
Scroll to the right and click ''manual.''
Twist the knob to tune in a station.
Click ''memory'' -- twice -- to store it.

In a lesser car, you might simply twist a knob. In the 745i, tuning the radio is an interactive experience at 75 m.p.h. After a bit of this, you may wonder what's the fuss over handheld cellphones."

Smart also pointed to Jasper van Kuijk 's (12/24/07) post on the product usability weblog, “More iDrive Reviews; the Evolution of a Bad Idea“. Here are some excerpts:

The Truth About Cars: BMW iDrive Editorial (Robert Fargo)

"...If BMW believed that iDrive was the intuitive future of driver control, why did they equip the new Seven with two CD players? Maybe it's because the dash-mounted single CD can be operated manually, while the six-stack system requires iDrive."

Technoride: Mid-Course Correction for BMW's iDrive (Bill Howard)
"...This third variant adds the function buttons, much like programmable PC function keys (they can be programmed, you know, just that no one does anymore) or radio buttons on your car audio system, to the four-way iDrive controller."

Mobile Experience: BMW iDrive Really Sucks
"The iDrive is so freaking useless..." (My quote from the van Kuijik's source, Andy, author of the The Mobile Experience blog)


Driving It: Car Interfaces and Usability (Wayne Cunningham, CNET)
Discusses Jacob Neilson's basic principles of usability and how they can be applied to car interfaces. Touches on BMW's iDrive, Audi's Multimedia Interface (MMI), the Mercedes-Benz Cockpit Management and Navigation Device (COMAND), and touchscreen LCD's.

Although Cunningham reports that he most usable interfaces he's seen in cars are touch screen LCD's, I beg to differ, given my experience with my Honda's navigation system! (I'm saving that one for another post.)
(Picture of the iDrive, from Cunningham's post)

MX 2009
For those of you interested in the managment of user experience, Adaptive Path is putting together a conference that addresses the business side of the UX equation:

MX San Francisco: Managing Experience through Creative Leadership March 1-3, 2009

Sara Beckman, Co-Director of the Management of Technology Program, Haas School of Business
Margaret Gould Stewart, Manager, User Experience, Google
Margret Schmidt, VP, User Experience Design & Research, TiVo
Bruce Temkin, Forrester Research
Marty Neumeier, President of Neutron
Khoi Vinh, Design Director for
Dan Roam, founder of Digital Roam
David Butler, VP, Design, The Coca-Cola Company

(Highlights from MX2008 can be found on the MX webpage, after the introductory blurbs about the speakers.)

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